Tuesday night was warm and balmy, so I walked up the south bank of the Thames, past the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern, past the strange shining blue trees by the OXO tower, past the Royal Festival Hall where New Labour celebrated their election win. Up as far as the Hungerford footbridges.
As I climbed the steps up onto the bridge, the sound of a piano came from the dark below. A woman was sitting at a keyboard, under a tree playing familiar, gentle pieces. A classical busker.
People stopped talking and stood quietly as they came up to the bridge, pausing to soak up the beautiful music.
In the middle of the day, it would have been out of place, jarring with the bustle and crowds, or maybe even completely lost under the noise of chat and traffic.
(If you squint, you can just make out where the pianist was sitting at the bottom of the steps somewhere in the middle of the left hand side of the muddy photo above!)
But in the late evening, it was like a free concert, with great acoustics, accompanying a picture postcard view down the Thames towards the blue-lit London Eye on one side and the Houses of Parliament on the other (lit up like electricity is free). Only the trains rattling over Hungerford bridge briefly disturbed the music.
As spits of rain started to fall, I reluctantly moved away. Yet half way across the bridge I could still hear the piano’s music as it carried across the flat Thames in the still night.
Culture and art wasn’t confined indoors last night. It was outside, for all to hear and engage with. An unprogrammed festival!
But back to Belfast. Would this ever happen? Does anyone walk along the Lagan at night - free from fear of being mugged? Past the Waterfront, past the Big Fish and the weir? The views are a little less iconic, but the pedestrians thinner on the ground. Not a hope for at least a year or two?